A surfer, avid traveler and polyglot, Tizoc Velasco, a California native is our Tripper of the Week….
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I grew up in a town right on the water called Santa Cruz in California. It’s a couple hours south of San Francisco and a great place to visit if you like to surf – or want to learn. I love the beach. During the summers I am a lifeguard for the city of Santa Cruz. I recently graduated from UC Santa Barbara (another great place to surf), where I got a B.S. in environmental studies. After graduation, I headed to South Africa for a couple of months and soon I’ll be traveling down to Mexico for a few months with my girlfriend to volunteer.
You’ve done a fair amount of travel. What has been your favorite destination?
Well, I’ve traveled a lot to Mexico to visit family there. So for that reason, Mexico has a special place in my heart. Plus where my dad’s from is amazing – it’s lush with lots of great hiking and only an hour from the beach and the food is the best on the planet.
A few years ago, I went to Australia and I got to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef – a dream of mine. I also went to the Outback and saw the most incredible collection of stars I’ve ever seen in my life. So for its natural beauty, I would have to say Australia is one of my favorite destinations.
What was your most memorable experience in South Africa?
I had a lot of incredible experiences including climbing Lion’s Head (amazing view), going sky diving and jumping from the world’s tallest bungee jump.
But my most memorable experience was meeting a Cape Town local who went by the name Papa Smurf. He’s a real character – literally; he plays small roles in various movies. He had a lot of great stories and took us to this really cool place to eat that had crazy variety and was really cheap.
I also met another local at Coffee Bay. He was walking on the beach in the rain and he stopped to talk to us. My friend and I took a photo with him. When we took the photo with him, he went “Hah! Hah hah hah!” extremely loudly. It was a relatively brief interaction but really memorable.
What has been your craziest experience on your travels?
That I can share? Well, I was on my way to the airport in Rome last year, when I realized I had forgotten my passport. The cab driver didn’t really speak English, so I had a bit of a hard time explaining that I needed to go back to my friend’s house to pick it up. Actually it probably didn’t take that long, but in emergencies time always seems to go by more slowly. Anyway, we headed back to my friend’s house and our way we got into an accident. Another car sideswiped us and then the other driver got out of the car and started yelling at us. I kept trying to say I had a flight to catch but no one was paying attention. I was worried we wouldn’t make it back to the airport in time, but I just made it.
Where do you take friends who visit your hometown for the first time?
I take them down to Cowell’s Beach to watch the surfers and to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which is a classic old amusement park. I also take them hiking amongst the redwoods in Nisene Marks Park. Our downtown in Santa Cruz is pretty quaint, so I also take visitors for a stroll there.
For visitors that are around for a few days, I’ll also drive them south, down to Monterey to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and up to Big Sur. Or we’ll head north up to San Francisco.
You went to Burning Man in August how was that?
It was my third year going. They lit a massive Trojan horse on fire on and it was amazing – the biggest fire I’ve ever seen. It was like 40 feet tall.
But my favorite part was just meeting tons of really cool people. There were lots of us from California but I also met a lot of Irish people and Australian people. Talking to them and getting their perspective on things and on American culture was really interesting. Besides hanging out with people it was also amazing to explore the city by bike.
Where are you traveling next?
I’m headed down to Mexico for a few months. I’ll be working on an environmentally-focused humanitarian project, installing a special type of stove which will vastly improve the quality of people’s lives.
If you want to practice your Spanish or learn to surf or swap travel stories, you can connect with Tizoc via his Tripping profile here.